Dear Abigail : the intimate lives and revolutionary ideas of Abigail Adams and her two remarkable sisters

by Diane Jacobs

Paper Book, 2014




New York : Ballantine Books, [2014]


"For readers of the historical works of Robert K. Massie, David McCullough, and Alison Weir comes the first biography on the life of Abigail Adams and her sisters. "Never sisters loved each other better than we."--Abigail Adams in a letter to her sister Mary, June 1776. Much has been written about the enduring marriage of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. But few know of the equally strong bond Abigail shared with her sisters, Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw Peabody, accomplished women in their own right. Now acclaimed biographer Diane Jacobs reveals their moving story, which unfolds against the stunning backdrop of America in its transformative colonial years. Abigail, Mary, and Elizabeth Smith grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the close-knit daughters of a minister and his wife. When the sisters moved away from one another, they relied on near-constant letters--from what John Adams called their "elegant pen"--to buoy them through pregnancies, illnesses, grief, political upheaval, and, for Abigail, life in the White House. Infusing her writing with rich historical perspective and detail, Jacobs offers fascinating insight into these progressive women's lives: oldest sister Mary, who became de facto mayor of her small village; youngest sister Betsy, an aspiring writer who, along with her husband, founded the second coeducational school in the United States; and middle child Abigail, who years before becoming First Lady ran the family farm while her husband served in the Continental Congress, first in Philadelphia, and was then sent to France and England, where she joined him at last. This engaging narrative traces the sisters' lives from their childhood sibling rivalries to their eyewitness roles during the American Revolution and their adulthood as outspoken wives and mothers. They were women ahead of their time who believed in intellectual and educational equality between the sexes. Drawing from newly discovered correspondence, never-before-published diaries, and archival research, Dear Abigail is a fascinating front-row seat to history--and to the lives of three exceptional women who were influential during a time when our nation's democracy was just taking hold. Advance praise for Dear Abigail: "In a beautifully wrought narrative, Diane Jacobs has brought the high-spirited, hyperarticulate Smith sisters, and the early years of the American republic, to rich, luminous life. A stunning, sensitive work of history."--Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra. "Jacobs is a superb storyteller. In this sweeping narrative about family and friendship during the American Revolution, Abigail Adams emerges as one of the great political heroines of the eighteenth century. I fell in love with her all over again."--Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of A World on Fire. "Beauty, brains, and breeding--Elizabeth, Abigail, and Mary had them all. This absorbing history shows how these close-knit and well-educated daughters of colonial America become women of influence in the newly begotten United States. Jacobs's feel for the period is confident; so is her appreciation of the nuances of character."--Daniel Mark Epstein, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage"--… (more)


½ (17 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member thornton37814
Author Diane Jacobs has done a tremendous amount of research into the life of Abigail Adams, wife of the second United States president. It also concerns her sisters. Much of the content in the book is derived from extensive research into her letters. It is supplemented by additional research into
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the social history and political history of the colonial and early national periods. While the book is well researched, it is not a particularly stimulating read. It has a rather dry academic tone although there are parts that are interesting and insightful. The book does a good job of showing that Abigail Adams was very involved in the political world, had her own opinions, was critical of slavery, and believed women could be involved politically. This book will be of most interest to academics, but others with an interest in Abigail, her family, or women in that period of history will probably also want to read it.
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LibraryThing member octafoil40
The author has succcessfully integrated all of the existing letters and
correspondence and other existing writings of Abigail and her two sisters in such a clear manner meaningful manner as to suggest she has just finished interviewing them. It is a joy to read this book. Such an easy flow is
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presented in the narrative, all the while incorporating the extant writing of the subject individuals!
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LibraryThing member wearylibrarian
Jacobs reveals the inner thoughts and emotions of Abigail Adams and her sisters through a series of letters and personal research. We see her as a woman ahead of her times, who was not afraid to voice her ideas and views. I enjoy reading biographies and found the letters between Abigail and her
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sisters very interesting. However, at times I found the rest of the writing rather dry, reading more like a text book than a biography. Overall this was a very interesting book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys biographies and history.
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LibraryThing member magnolia2
This was a free read. At first I felt bogged down by facts, having anticipated more of a story supported by the sister's letters. As I read on, I became engrossed in the politics of the time, and the perserverance of Abigail and her sisters. The book traces their friendship from girls to their
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deaths. This is an interesting family chronicle of one of our First Families.
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LibraryThing member Jaylia3
Reading historical biographies has become my favorite way to get the sense of an era, and for that the lengthy but aptly titled Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters Tells Part of the Story of the American Revolution has a lot to
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offer. Abigail Adams, the wife of the second US president John Adams, was the middle of three very close sisters who corresponded whenever they were apart, leaving plenty of source material about their lives.

Through those three thoughtful lively women Puritan beliefs and culture come to life in this book, including how attitudes about family, religion, and the role of women begin to change during the time surrounding the American Revolution. Abigail Adams traveled to New York, Philadelphia, London, Paris, and the brand new, just being built on a swamp Washington, DC, so the history, personalities, political climate, society, and ambiance of those eighteenth century cities become part of her story. The small town Massachusetts setting of her sisters' lives and the courtship trials of their daughters provide pleasures similar a Jane Austen novel. Informative and entertaining.
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LibraryThing member schwager
I loved this work. I have read a number of books about Abigail Adams and her correspondence with John. This book offered a different viewpoint on this fascinating figure. I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining Abigail within the context of the political and social environment in
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which she lived. I was actually surprised at the many parts of the books that didn't feature interaction between the sisters. I think it could have strengthened the work with more.
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LibraryThing member dianasilva
I received this book months ago and really enjoyed it. I got very busy and could not write a review. But I really enjoyed this book. I loved the relationship between the sisters. Also, as silly as it sounds, I loved the illustrations. Some things fade with history and I loved that the author would
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name an object in the book and then show an illustration. This was a very interesting read and I enjoyed seeing history from the perspective of the sisters.
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LibraryThing member sarahlown
This was my first attempt at reading a historical biography but it wont be my last. Diane Jacobs did a beautiful job of writing this story in a way that really made you feel like you had gotten to know and become friends with the characters. Before reading this book I had no clue what an amazing
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and interesting lady Abigail Adams was, and I loved getting to know her through actual letters between her and her loved ones.
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LibraryThing member clennek
I just finished reading, "Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters," and heartily recommend this book to anyone who would like a female perspective on the interesting times in American history leading up the the Revolutionary War
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throughout John Adams presidency. We learn so much about the great men of these times (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc) yet nary a word about the women of these times who made it possible for many of the political heroes to accomplish what they did for the newly born United States of America. This book provides a keen insight into what their lives were like, not only in those historic moments, but day to day, throughout many trials, tribulations and personal losses. The strength, accomplishments, and trying times of these three sisters and everyone who was close to them via a blood relationship or friendship makes for fascinating reading and provides an additional dimension and depth to the story of those intimately involved in the American Revolution and the birth of a nation. The day I was awarded this book by Library Thing was indeed a fortunate one for me.
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Physical description

xii, 499 p.; 25 cm


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